Democracy, in the shortest form is defined as "Government by the people". In the first sight it looks very nice, as if "people together" will judge and assess, which government is good and ultimately the best one is chosen. This might be the case, long ago. But does it work the same way today?

So actually, calling it "Government by the people", it sounds confusing. It should be rightly called as "Government by majority people", which it really means, how it works.

Today in a practical world, where people race each other in every field, social status, money, sex and business etc, by hook or by crook, "government by the people" is hardly the case. People are always present in there own interest groups, and want to force it on other groups. Or vice versa there are groups that want to defend themselves from the offensive groups. So in real sense, there are lobbies everywhere, having a tug of war. The lobbies may be corrupt or innocent. But if in majority, democracy allows them to government.

So in real sense, democracy is the government by people in majority. This majority does not always mean a group that thinks in favour of humanity or benefit of nation/state/town etc. They may be the people who intentionally, keep manipulating the meaning of democracy, and find loop holes to grab more and more.

How is this problem solved by democracy? Doesn't democracy fail in this case? (I know, there are other entities, like judiciary, media, freedom to speak up etc that form the pillars. But everything seems failing, since the constituents of all these entities, are formed by people ultimately. And people themselves have formed up lobbies to win the race.

The aim of a right system must be a government, let's say, chosen by people, who think the human way (no matter majority or minority). Just focusing upon, who is majority? Does that solve problems?

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    "People are always present in there own interest groups, and want to force it on other groups." its those damned libertarians, always wanting power so that they can just force you to take it back. The StackExchange model isn't interested in opinions. It helps if you have a clearly defined question. It sounds like you are interested in how the minority are protected from the "tyranny of the majority." The founders of the USA constitution realized that the best protection was to found a constitutional republic, and only give the federal government limited enumerated powers.
    – user1873
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:17
  • Also, welcome to Politics.SE.
    – user1873
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:19
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    Democracy fails when it fails to implement the will of the people and instead implements the will of the few. So actually democracy fails when its representatives implement policies that benefit humanity at the cost of its citizens against their will. Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 14:39
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    The norms are established by the majority. You have a point that Democracy is the rule of the people, however, depending on the people it may decay to a tyranny of the stupid. A great example of the latter is the Trump presidential candidacy and his relatively high support. Nevertheless, there is now alternative to Democracy; alternative to what we have now is Democracy.
    – Ziezi
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 20:53
  • Democracy and captialism are poor bedfellows. However, I suspect it will be a while before anyone takes another crack at implementing socialism or communism. Meanwhile, let's hope it doesn't turn crumble into rule by corporation, as elections are probably preferable to lawsuits.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 15:58

5 Answers 5


March 1st's (2014) edition of The Economist has a highly insightful essay entitled "What's Gone Wrong With Democracy". In it, they point out many of the problems that you highlight:

  • In an era of interconnectedness, referenda that appear only every few years may seem so slow as to make them look downright antiquated.
  • Autocrats and truly liberal states both make a pretense of democracy
  • Majoritarianism can be as much a threat to individual liberties as autocracy
  • The Global Financial Crisis highlighted the fact that technocrats are sometimes required when temporal concerns (i.e. debt that adheres to future generations vs. services now) conflict
  • That China's autocracy has done in a decade what it took the West 30 years to accomplish

The solution, they argue is to balance pure democracy - i.e., poll-driven majoritarianism - with strong institutions that respect the civil liberties, even of the minorities. The recent troubles with most democracies - Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, and Georgia - highlight the fact that strong institutions are required to guard against the excesses of polls. And where graft, corruption, and lack of regard for individual liberties is present, bad things follow.

To wit:

The need for hard-headedness is particularly pressing when establishing a nascent democracy. One reason why so many democratic experiments have failed recently is that they put too much emphasis on elections and too little on the other essential features of democracy. The power of the state needs to be checked, for instance, and individual rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to organise must be guaranteed. The most successful new democracies have all worked in large part because they avoided the temptation of majoritarianism—the notion that winning an election entitles the majority to do whatever it pleases. India has survived as a democracy since 1947 (apart from a couple of years of emergency rule) and Brazil since the mid-1980s for much the same reason: both put limits on the power of the government and provided guarantees for individual rights.

Robust constitutions not only promote long-term stability, reducing the likelihood that disgruntled minorities will take against the regime. They also bolster the struggle against corruption, the bane of developing countries. Conversely, the first sign that a fledgling democracy is heading for the rocks often comes when elected rulers try to erode constraints on their power—often in the name of majority rule. Mr Morsi tried to pack Egypt’s upper house with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Yanukovych reduced the power of Ukraine’s parliament. Mr Putin has ridden roughshod over Russia’s independent institutions in the name of the people. Several African leaders are engaging in crude majoritarianism—removing term limits on the presidency or expanding penalties against homosexual behaviour, as Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni did on February 24th.

Foreign leaders should be more willing to speak out when rulers engage in such illiberal behaviour, even if a majority supports it. But the people who most need to learn this lesson are the architects of new democracies: they must recognise that robust checks and balances are just as vital to the establishment of a healthy democracy as the right to vote. Paradoxically even potential dictators have a lot to learn from events in Egypt and Ukraine: Mr Morsi would not be spending his life shuttling between prison and a glass box in an Egyptian court, and Mr Yanukovych would not be fleeing for his life, if they had not enraged their compatriots by accumulating so much power.

All that said, they end on a note that I think also bears some consideration. They state:

At the same time, as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in the 19th century, democracies always look weaker than they really are: they are all confusion on the surface but have lots of hidden strengths. Being able to install alternative leaders offering alternative policies makes democracies better than autocracies at finding creative solutions to problems and rising to existential challenges, though they often take a while to zigzag to the right policies. But to succeed, both fledgling and established democracies must ensure they are built on firm foundations.

  • Good answer, because it addresses OPs concerns about the tyranny of the majority with examples of how governments keep that tryanny in check by preventing infringement on people's rights.
    – Publius
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 3:43
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    Very good link! (and summary of it) :) Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 17:06

The question is rather focused on how a "democratic" system shapes, and how a "process of democratization" can guarantee the right democratic government. For instance, decentralization (in its various forms of political, administrative, or fiscal) can be one response, where powers or function are redistributed or dispersed away from a central government or authority. Also, healthy elections can guarantee that elective parts of the government are the real representatives of the people). Checks and balances between independents part of the state (the three branches of the executive, judicial and legislative) help to the democratic processes in a country. Civil society - as active entities in the public sphere can act as monitoring bodies. In fact, all of these can work together to help a system to be more democratic. Moreover, the process of democratization is more important which means how the system evaluates itself, gets feedback (See "feedback loop" in the theory of political systems by David Easton) and use it as demand or support to correct itself.


The question is simple: Democracy is failing ?
The answer is equally simple and is: YES.
Why? Because democracy is a model that assumes a great civilization in individuals who want to implement it, since it is based on the principle that my freedom ends where the freedom of my neighbor begins.
Often people do not want to realize that each individual is part of the democratic process and he must cooperate because the model can work.
The democratic model requires an high level of personal responsibility. The democratic model is failing because the people tends to taking responsibility away from themselves throwing their responsibilities and their shortcomings onto the mass.
The democratic model requires an high level of interest in the welfare of our neighbor because it assumes that if each of us is interested in his next well-being, we'll be living all better.
Nowadays the proposed "winner man" model is of a growing individualism, a frantic search for affirmation on the others at all costs. The power very often is not intended in the democratic sense of a service to the others, but as a mean of personal affirmation in itself, without any interest for the social cost that this behavior may have.
Personal responsibility is heavy to bear; it requires awareness, education and engagement. This is the reason why many people would never give up the totalitarian system in which they live, for the simple reason that the system assumes the responsibility to make you survive, although, of course, at the cost of deprive the individual of his freedom.
The economic gain is seen today as a distinctive system. Earn as much at the cost of doing harm to others is a widespread mentality. We see it applied to every aspect of our lives. By financiers who are not interested in anything about the pain and despair they cause; by the all the mafias of the planet, who use weapons instead of shares of the stock exchange.
Actually both are sides of the same coin: greed.
The social cost of the planetary greed is under everybody's eyes. While there are several billion people starving and living as sub-humans, there is a bunch of few thousand people which has more that anybody can spend in hundred lives.
Jean-Jeaques Rousseau said that Democracy exists where there is no one so rich to buy another, and none so poor to be sold.
So democracy is doomed to fail more and more, if mankind won't decide to change direction and regain the real democratic values of personal responsibility, personal participation and mutual, reciprocal service.

  • Given that Rousseau was also a deep believer in the wonderfulness of life of "noble savages" before civilization, his judgement on these issues is at least somewhat suspect (or rather, is a witticism not supoprted by any data and likely wrong)
    – user4012
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 20:18

"Government by the people" fail when a lot of the people in a country don’t think that the other people in the county (different tribe etc) have any right to choose who leads the country. (E.g. I question if Scottish MPs should have anything to do with choosing the UK government, as they now have their own government that decide most things.)

We (the UK) were very good at grouping tribes into countries so they would not be able to agree with each other enough to create an uprising. Now we ask why the some countries have problems with democracny….

  • it's not just the UK that struggles with this, the US started doing it before penning their Constitution - whilst the US Declaration of Independance started well with all men are created equal, it also managed to slip in a reference to merciless Indian Savages.
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Apr 6, 2016 at 16:08

The question is democracy failing? Answer is yes. Why? because it is mostly combined nowadays with capitalism. The two are not working together very well, as capitalism overshadows democracy in some ways:

  1. poor cannot simply buy the same legal help as rich
  2. poor simply cannot live in the same safe neighborhoods as rich
  3. this will include all kinds of safe schools, etc.
  4. this will create separation, secluded zip codes for the rich
  5. with ghettos everywhere else, high crime etc.

And separation brings difference, and after a point it will bring civil battles, first in riots, then in upraise. To your question, to keep democracy from failing,

  1. the government has to provide financial stability and some sort of equilibrium. That will keep every place safer, and people everywhere enough satisfied not to raise up.
  2. One more thing. European repr. democracies have something called a petition. Anybody can submit, with enough signatures. And they have to organize a vote. Thats needed I think too, to create a balancing political force.
  • what do you mean by unbacked items??? Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 19:58
  • can't you add your thoughts as an answer? By the way these are all statistical facts. I do not see anywhere answers backed by links to statistics or accepted theories. Is this downvote just done by people with big reputation to keep newcomers from rising up? Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:01
  • I have lived in Eastern europe, and US now. how can you judge my opinion? Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 20:02
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    @ÁrpádSzendrei This is a website for exchanging facts, not opinions. So opinions are always judged negatively on this website, no matter if people agree with them or not. If you want to become a constructive member of this community, please try to stick to facts you can prove with citations and keep your opinions to yourself.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 22:37
  • i am being downgraded on my questions. why is that? Commented Oct 12, 2016 at 23:45

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